Is experience the best teacher? A multilevel analysis of teacher characteristics and student achievement in low performing schools

  • Francis L. HuangEmail author
  • Tonya R. Moon


The study investigated several teacher characteristics, with a focus on two measures of teaching experience, and their association with second grade student achievement gains in low performing, high poverty schools in a Mid-Atlantic state. Value-added models using three-level hierarchical linear modeling were used to analyze the data from 1,544 students, 154 teachers, and 53 schools. Results indicated that traditional teacher qualification characteristics such as licensing status and educational attainment were not statistically significant in producing student achievement gains. Total years of teaching experience was also not a significant predictor but a more specific measure, years of teaching experience at a particular grade level, was significantly associated with increased student reading achievement. We caution researchers and policymakers when interpreting results from studies that have used only a general measure of teacher experience as effects are possibly underestimated. Policy implications are discussed.


Teacher effects Teacher quality Reading HLM Certification Teacher experience Low performing schools 


  1. Akiba, M., LeTendre, G., & Scribner, J. (2007). Teacher quality, opportunity gap, and national achievement in 46 countries. Educational Researcher, 36, 369–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, K., & Entwisle, D. (1988). Achievement in the first two years of school: Patterns and processes. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 53(2).Google Scholar
  3. Birman, B., Le Floch, K., Klekotka, A., Ludwig, M., Taylor, J., Walters, K., et al. (2007). State and local implementation of the NCLB Act: Volume II- Teacher quality under NCLB: Interim report. RAND Corporation. Retrieved on August 1, 2008, from
  4. Boyd, D., Goldhaber, D., Lankford, H., & Wyckoff, J. (2007). The effects of certification and preparation on teacher quality. The Future of Children, 17, 45–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyd, D., Lankford, H., & Wyckoff, J. (2008). Increasing the effectiveness of teachers in low-performing schools. In H. F. Ladd & E. B. Fiske (Eds.), Handbook of research in education finance and policy (pp. 535–550). Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coleman, J. S., Campbell, E. Q., Hobson, C. J., McPartland, J., Mood, A. M., Weinfeld, A. D., et al. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  8. Croninger, R., Rice, J., Rathbun, A., & Masako, N. (2007). Teacher qualifications and early learning: Effects of certification, degree, and experience on first-grade student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 26, 312–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Darling-Hammond, L., Berry, B., & Thoreson, A. (2001). Does teacher certification matter? Evaluating the evidence. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(1), 57–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dee, T. (1995). A teacher like me: Does race, ethnicity, or gender matter? American Economic Review, 95, 158–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goldhaber, D. (2008). Teachers matter, but effective teacher quality policies are elusive. In H. F. Ladd & E. B. Fiske (Eds.), Handbook of research in education finance and policy (pp. 146–165). Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Goldhaber, D., & Anthony, E. (2007). Can teacher quality be effectively assessed? National board certification as a signal of effective teaching. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 89, 134–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (1996). Evaluating the effect of teacher degree level on educational performance. In W. Fowler (Ed.), Developments in school finance (pp. 197–210). Washington, DC: NCES.Google Scholar
  14. Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (1998). When should we reward degrees for teachers? Phi Delta Kappan, 134–138.Google Scholar
  15. Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (2000). Does teacher certification matter? High school teacher certification status and student achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(2), 129–145.Google Scholar
  16. Goldhaber, D., & Brewer, D. (2001). Evaluating the evidence on teacher certification: A rejoinder. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(1), 79–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Good, T., & Brophy, J. (1994). Looking in classrooms (6th ed.). New York, NY: Collins.Google Scholar
  18. Greenwald, R., Hedges, L., & Laine, R. (1996). The effect of school resources on student achievement. Review of Educational Research, 3, 361–396.Google Scholar
  19. Hanushek, E. A. (1986). The economics of schooling: Production and efficiency in public schools. The Journal of Economic Literature, 24, 1141–1177.Google Scholar
  20. Hanushek, E. A. (1992). The trade-off between child quantity and quality. The Journal of Political Economy, 100, 84–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harcourt Assessment, Inc. (2004). Stanford reading first: Technical data report. San Antonio, TX: Harcourt Assessment, Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Huang, F., & Moon, T. (2008). Reading First’s impact on reading outcomes on second grade students: One county’s experience in a Mid-Atlantic state. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY. (March).Google Scholar
  23. Ingersoll, R. (2002). Holes in the teacher supply bucket. School Administrator, 59(3), 42–43.Google Scholar
  24. International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (2007). Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study: Teacher Questionnaire. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from
  25. Johnson, F., & Cornman, S. (2008). Findings from the Pilot Teacher Compensation Survey: School year 2005–06 (NCES 2008-440). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, D.C. Retrieved July 5, 2008, from
  26. Kainz, K., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2007). The ecology of early reading development for children in poverty. The Elementary School Journal, 107, 407–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kane, T. J., Rockoff, J. E., & Staiger, D. (2006). What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Evidence from New York City. NBER Working Paper Series, Vol. w12155. Retrieved March 5, 2008 from
  28. Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher sorting and the plight of urban schools: A descriptive analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24, 37–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Link, C., & Ratledge, E. (1979). Student perceptions, I. Q. and achievement. The Journal of Human Resources, 14, 98–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Madaus, G., Kellaghan, T., Rakow, E., & King, D. (1979). The sensitivity of measures of school effectiveness. Harvard Educational Review, 49, 207–230.Google Scholar
  31. Marzano, R. (2007). Using action research and local models of instruction to enhance teaching. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 20, 117–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Matthes, W. A., Tollerud, T. R., & Langeveldt, W. (1990). Teacher beliefs regarding career ladders and merit pay. Education, 110, 535–40.Google Scholar
  33. Muijs, D., & Reynolds, D. (2003). Student background and teacher effects on achievement and attainment in mathematics: A longitudinal study. Educational Research and Evaluation, 9, 289–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Muñoz, M., & Chang, F. (2008). The elusive relationship between teacher characteristics and student academic achievement growth: A longitudinal multilevel model for change. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 20, 147–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Murnane, R., & Phillips, B. (1981). Learning by doing, vintage, and selection: Three pieces of the puzzle related to teaching experience and teaching performance. Economics of Education Review, 1, 453–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L. (2004). How large are teacher effects? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 237–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Otaiba, S., Kosanovich-Grek, M., Torgesen, J., Hassler, L., & Wahl, M. (2005). Reviewing core kindergarten and first-grade reading programs in light of No Child Left Behind: An exploratory study. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 21, 377–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Palardy, G. J., & Rumberger, R. W. (2008). Teacher effectiveness in first grade: The importance of background qualifications, attitudes, and instructional practices for student learning. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30(2), 111–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  40. Reynolds, C., Livingston, R., & Willson, V. (2006). Measurement and assessment in education. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  41. Rivkin, S., Hanushek, E., & Kain, J. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73, 417–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  43. Rowan, B. (2004). Teachers matter: Evidence from value-added assessments. Research Points. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  44. Rowan, B., Chiang, F. S., & Miller, R. (1997). Using research on employees’ performance to study the effects of teachers on students’ achievement. Sociology of Education, 70(4), 256–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rowan, B., Correnti, R., & Miller, R. (2002). What large-scale, survey research tells us about teacher effects on student achievement: Insights from the Prospects study of elementary schools. Teachers College Record, 104, 1525–1567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sanders, W. L., & Horn, S. P. (1998). Research findings from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) Database: Implications for educational evaluation and research. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 12, 247–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sanders, W. L., & Rivers, J. C. (1996). Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future student academic achievement. Research Progress Report. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center.Google Scholar
  48. Shen, J. (2001). Teacher retention and attrition from public schools: Evidence from SASS91. The Journal of Educational Research, 91, 81–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sirin, S. R. (2005). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review of research. Review of Educational Research, 75, 417–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, D.C.: National Academy.Google Scholar
  51. Stronge, J., Ward, T., Tucker, P., & Hindman, J. (2008). What is the relationship between teacher quality and student achievement? An exploratory study. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 20, 165–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Summers, A., & Wolfe, B. (1977). Do schools make a difference? The American Economic Review, 67, 639–652.Google Scholar
  53. U. S. Department of Education. (2004). New No Child Left Behind flexibility: Highly qualified teachers. Retrieved July 5, 2008, from March.
  54. Wayne, A., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73, 89–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. White, K. (1982). The relation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 461–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wöβmann, L. (2005). Europe’s schools. Education Policy, 445–504.Google Scholar
  57. Word, E., Johnson, J., Bain, H., Fulton, D., Zaharias, J., Lintz, M., et al. (1990). Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR): Tennessee’s K-3 class-size study. Nashville, TN: Tennessee State Department of Education.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Curry School of EducationUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations